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US Intel Agencies To Build Superconducting Computer

timothy posted about a year ago | from the reading-minds-takes-a-lot-of-technology dept.

Supercomputing 73

dcblogs writes "The Director of National Intelligence is soliciting help to develop a superconducting computer. The goal of the government's solicitation is 'to demonstrate a small-scale computer based on superconducting logic and cryogenic memory that is energy efficient, scalable, and able to solve interesting problems.' The NSA, in particular, has had a long interest in superconducting technology, but 'significant technical obstacles prevented exploration of superconducting computing,' the government said in its solicitation. Those innovations include cryogenic memory designs that allow operation of memory and logic in close proximity within the cold environment, as well as much faster switching speeds. U.S. intelligence agencies don't disclose the size of their systems, but the NSA is building a data center in Utah with a 65 MW power supply."

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73 comments

Interesting problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44488017)

Like which Americans can be culled for Obama's new world order.

Re:Interesting problems (0)

memojuez (910304) | about a year ago | (#44488055)

Snowden to the Rescue! He could design,maintain and be a watchdog all for the price one measly contractor's salary.

Re:Interesting problems (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44488591)

The SlashJerk ones will go willingly, mindless liberals.

Re:Interesting problems (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44488749)

The SlashJerk ones will go willingly, mindless liberals.

It's hilarious how you "conservative" idiots always accuse others
of being stupid, when "conservatives" such as you cannot even write
grammatically correct English.

I hate to break the news to you, but uneducated idiots like you are
and WILL REMAIN at the bottom of the food chain. You are used
like the pawns you are by the US government, which sends bunches of your
dumb asses off to be blown up by people who don't like you invading
their country.

Go back to your trailer park and drink Budweiser, you fucking loser.

Re:Interesting problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44489137)

Who said I was a conservative? Very closed minded and bigoted of you to assume that. I suppose using the f-word is grammatically correct and proper polite English? You worded that like your not in America, but judging by your small minded bigoted crap I bet your an American of the vial liberal screed? NO?

Now let me get back to my Bud Light in my bunker you MFer and I'll let you get back to licking the governments boots and propaganda since you posted the typical non-sense about so called conservatives since you cant think for yourself and go by what your third grade teacher told you. Big ups cry baby troll.

Re:Interesting problems (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44490045)

your != you're
non-sense != nonsense
cant != can't
vial != vile

Regards,
your third grade teacher.

Re:Interesting problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44492619)

What's wrong? Let me guess. You couldn't score a Visa because they require a minimum IQ of 50? Say what you will about Americans but they love a good fight. If the US really wanted to get rid of the Taliban they should have kept the armed forces at home and just sold hunting licenses to the general public. Of course the airlines serving Pakistan and Afghanistan would have to loosen up their rules concerning the transport of weapons and ammunition. Shit, knowing the US there would be a reality show covering all the action. As some added enticement they could even offer cash prizes in a whole host of different categories. Commercializing the whole endeavor would actually generate some serious revenue and profits instead of the government flushing billions down the toilet.

Luke Chapter 10: Verse 18 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44490149)

Jesus said "I beheld SATAN falling as Lightning (Baraq = Aramaic) from (O/U) the Heavens (Aramaic = Bahma)"

MW (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44488051)

I take it the phrase "relays clacked" is no longer useful in science fiction stories?

Re:MW (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44488101)

Ahh, relays!

I just can't warm up to these superconducting thingamajigs.

Re:MW (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about a year ago | (#44491485)

I take it the phrase "relays clacked" is no longer useful in science fiction stories?

your moths have to be much smaller now to get caught in the works.

Red Riding Hood Beware (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44488059)

"Why Big Brother, what big eyes you have!"

"All the better to see you with, my dear."

Re:Red Riding Hood Beware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44489297)

I always prefer the classic from Lord of the Rings over Red Riding Hood.

"I... SEE... YOU..."
"Ah Sauron, what big-ck eye you have! Big gut too! COME COMRADE, WE DRINK!"
I'm sure that is how it happened.

NOT "eyes" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44489395)

1 "annuit oceptis" (all-seeing eye) @ back of a dollar for what's below it in the "Novus Ordo Seclorum"/New World Order.

Re:NOT "eyes" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44489667)

Uh. That's "annuit coeptis", actually, which means "He approves of our undertaking".

Re:NOT "eyes" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44502189)

*DISCLAIMER* not a tinfoil hat-wearer
But that is still kinda creepy.

US Intel Agencies Should Forfeit Their Toys (3, Insightful)

Thaelon (250687) | about a year ago | (#44488083)

They violated the bill of rights with their toys. They should be taken away, and the children who did it punished.

Re:US Intel Agencies Should Forfeit Their Toys (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44489183)

The founding fathers never intended the bill of rights to apply to the internet.

Re:US Intel Agencies Should Forfeit Their Toys (4, Insightful)

Thaelon (250687) | about a year ago | (#44489253)

The founding fathers intended that the freedoms assigned by the Bill of Rights not be superseded by technology, bureaucracy, plutarchy, or dictatorship.

Re:US Intel Agencies Should Forfeit Their Toys (3, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44489627)

The founding fathers never intended the bill of rights to apply to the internet.

Actually, the founding fathers never intended the bill of rights PERIOD.

So many ordinary citizens saw the dangers of authoritarian government that some colonies refused to ratify the Constitution until the Bill of Rights was added.

The first Bill of Rights was proposed during the convention but was defeated by a unanimous vote of the state delegations after only a brief discussion. Madison, then an opponent of a Bill of Rights, later explained the vote by calling the state bills of rights "parchment barriers" that offered only an illusion of protection against tyranny. (More prophetic words were seldom spoken.) Madison only later became in favor of the BOR.

It wasn't till 11 states had ratified the Constitution and the first congress met that the Bill of Rights was actually added, after a bitter and protracted debate. The first 12 amendments were submitted to the states for ratification in 1789 (only 10 passed). Only after this did the holdout colonies decide to become part of the United States.

Re:US Intel Agencies Should Forfeit Their Toys (1)

chihowa (366380) | about a year ago | (#44492721)

Actually, the founding fathers never intended the bill of rights PERIOD.

I hate to say this, but they were wrong.

I'm completely in agreement with Hamilton's argument against appearing to enumerate rights, but those amendments are the final defenses our rights have left. The idea of people's rights being inalienable and the powers of the government coming from the people through the Constitution is long dead. The feeble pretenses of not specifically violating the Bill of Rights is all that keeps the few rights we have left intact. Without the Bill of Rights, our government would have done away with the rest of the Constitution as they already did with the elastic clauses and not had to pretend to at least slightly defer to those few amendments.

The bill of Rights may have bought us a few extra years...

Re:US Intel Agencies Should Forfeit Their Toys (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44504451)

I hate to say this, but they were wrong.

Damn straight.

Further, had the seen what is going on now they would have put some TEETH in the protections,
with real penalties, instead of leaving that totally up to the discretion of some guy wearing a robe.

Re:US Intel Agencies Should Forfeit Their Toys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44489289)

Really? What rights were violated?

Link? (2)

wjcofkc (964165) | about a year ago | (#44488181)

Ok, so I am extremely ill to the point I am dizzy and can barely read the summary. Am I so out of it that I am not seeing the link to the original article? Or did someone forget to add one yet it still made it to the front page?

Re:Link? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44488481)

Congrats! You are one of the few, the proud, the readers of the FA.

Here's an article [computerworld.com]

and the government program [fbo.gov]

Modded up and down (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about a year ago | (#44489177)

Modded up and down. That's funny. When I first pointed out the lack of a link, I was modded up. Someone added a link to the story now I'm getting modded down. Gotta love this crowd.

link? (1)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year ago | (#44488189)

Where's TFA?

what a joke (4, Insightful)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about a year ago | (#44488193)

it's amazing that we cant seem to fund a universal healthcare system that would help sick people but we magically have all the money in the world to spy on said sick people.

Re:what a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44488581)

The police state offers better leverage to those at the top. What kind of leverage? The kind that facilitates exploiting an enormous cash flow for personal gain.

In a nutshell, the police state hasn't yet hit its limit on cash flow, and the elite at the top are scrambling to get in on it.

Re:what a joke (1)

KalvinB (205500) | about a year ago | (#44488611)

Providing for the common defense is constitutional. Health Insurance is not.

We should be worrying about getting our government to do the things it is supposed to do correctly instead of pretending that since we're paying for A we're entitled to B, too.

Re:what a joke (3, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year ago | (#44489409)

Who said that they are not one and the same?
We need ppl to be well so that they can fight, work, etc. WWI was stopped early due to the massive disease issues (esp. flu) and the inability of the nations to have sustained war. However, other wars have been started over resources and perceptions of being able to take on some other nation.
Doing a minimal national health care such as O'care is not all that horrible, esp. since it actually is CHEAPER to us than what we had.
Incidentally, that is also why top generals in the military back taking actions on AGW. They would rather not have to go to war in the future. Yet, it is so odd that so many neo-con types want to allow AGW to continue and do not care about future wars. I guess that is because so many of them have never been to war.

Re:what a joke (1)

stdarg (456557) | about a year ago | (#44490165)

We need ppl to be well so that they can fight, work, etc.

That's a bullshit justification that would work for any government action regardless of how intrusive it is. We need people to have kids, so now the government gets to regulate having children? We need people to have jobs, so the government can take over any industry?

I'm not saying Obamacare is even close to that scale, but that the heart of your argument is completely fallacious.

Incidentally, that is also why top generals in the military back taking actions on AGW.

How about this? Top generals should stfu about stuff they know nothing about. At the least, you shouldn't take a general's word for anything, even IN their field of expertise and let alone OUT of it. Top military brass as often as not have an eye towards politics, so stuff they say isn't necessarily "the unvarnished military truth" but a load of BS designed for the next stage in their career.

That's why we got the utter garbage spouted by General Petraeus about the Koran burning in Florida, pleading with the pastor guy not to do it. What a slap in the face to the oath that he took to defend the Constitution.

Re:what a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44492411)

You missed your lithium today.

Re:what a joke (0)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#44490171)

Who said that they are not one and the same?

I say that they are not one and the same. I say no.

No means no. If your force it on me, thats called rape. Get it through your heads that you are raping Americans that don't want to take part in your unconstitutional experiment in forced commerce. No means no. Its called rape. Fuck off.

Re:what a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44493143)

You posted on the wrong tab. You were supposed to post that over on your 'gay boz dating site'.

Re:what a joke (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44489717)

Providing for the common defense is constitutional. Health Insurance is not.

We should be worrying about getting our government to do the things it is supposed to do correctly instead of pretending that since we're paying for A we're entitled to B, too.

Providing for the common defense? You must be delusional.

The question today is one of defending ourselves FROM the government.

The biggest threat to the people and the freedoms of the United States is not some imaginary external enemy. Its our own government,
which, as has become patently obvious, we are powerless to control.

Re:what a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44489925)

You're begging the question of whether or not the NSA constitutes common defense, rather than a common threat to American citizens. If you can make that stretch, then surely I can stretch and say we need "common defense" against the actual leading causes of death?

Re:what a joke (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about a year ago | (#44493213)

Providing for the common defense is constitutional.

But is the US following an efficient strategy in order to provide its own defense? It spends more than any nation in the world on it.

Re:what a joke (3, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#44488997)

I've heard that countries with a more homogenous demographic spend more on social welfare programs, while citizens in countries with diversity are more stingy with what they want their taxes spent on. And of course the spy programs are supposed to defend us against non-european foreigners.

It's us vs them in the minds of many voters. "You don't look like me, so you must be bad in some way. You're out to bomb me or you want a check from the government to spend on drugs. Either way, I want my tax dollars to protect me from you, not help you."

To me, that's the most depressing thing about American politics, and the only way I can think it will change is to wait until most of the current citizens die out and hope subsequent generations are smarter than that.

Re:what a joke (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44489731)

That's right, lets play the race card again.

Re:what a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44490033)

That's right, lets play the race card again.

The race card remains in play so long as racism shapes american politics; it does not go to the graveyard. Your +4/+4 Zombie Obama does not change this because he's still controlled by an opposing wizard.

Re:what a joke (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#44491641)

Either you missed my point or you don't understand what the "race card" is. Playing the race card means exploiting accusations of being racist. I wasn't trying to exploit anything, just explain American politics. And I'm not calling anyone racist for being opposed to obamacare.

Can superconductors compute? (2, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#44488211)

I am about to ask a very naiive question so please bear with me. Interconnects aside, is an ideal transistor permitted by theory? That is, 0 resistance when closed and "infinite" resistance when open? (Surely not the latter, since arcing could occur even in a vacuum). And while we're at it, it should not require any current to hold the transistor open or shut once it is switched. And should be infinitely fast :)

There must be a divide by 0 in there somewhere, it just doesn't seem like the universe would permit computation without creating some entropy.

Re:Can superconductors compute? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44488601)

You don't need infinite resistance insulators if there is a path with 0 resistance (as long as its not saturated). Also, there are way better insulators than vacuum.

However there always will be some losses: if you want to represent a bit, it must require some switching energy, or it will thermally get switched. This is where the massive gain from being very cold comes from: you can have way lower energy bit representations.

There is also always some capacitance, and connecting a low bit to a high bit is much like connecting capacitors together: you lose half the energy no matter how low the resistance is (assuming one is charged and the other is not, and they have equal capacitance, you get half the voltage across double the capacitance, and due to the V^2 term, half the energy).

So, you can't do an ideal job with transistors because changing bits the way they do consumes energy. But, it seems likely that if you managed to make super conducting transistors at very low temperatures, you might be able to drastically reduce the losses and / or run much faster. That is what they are aiming for.

You might even be able to use smaller transistors to have more computer per area, since the bits need to store less total charge with the lower thermal noise. If you throw in error correction to deal with the occasional cosmic ray or other random effects, you might be able to push the size of the stored charge way down from current approaches.

Re:Can superconductors compute? (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#44489645)

+1 for my friend the AC

Re:Can superconductors compute? (1)

Noughmad (1044096) | about a year ago | (#44491601)

Don't transistors work better with DC?

Re:Can superconductors compute? (3, Informative)

MindStalker (22827) | about a year ago | (#44488629)

http://spectrum.ieee.org/semiconductors/design/superconductor-logic-goes-lowpower [ieee.org]

It appears that "logic" is done through wave form cancellation.

You have a waveform, if you pass through the same point an inverse waveform you cancel out the waveforms and end up with a 0, or a matches wave form will amplify the signal giving you a 1. Though, no, I don't fully understand how this is used for computation, it doesn't appear that they know either.

Re:Can superconductors compute? (2)

bertok (226922) | about a year ago | (#44491451)

They're probably using Rapid Single Flux Quantum [wikipedia.org] (RSFQ), which isn't really a "quantum" computer logic, but is very fast and very low power.

It's the latter property that is of interest for making supercomputers. One of the biggest performance limitations is latency, which is caused by the speed of light delay between processors. Moving processors closer reduces the delay, but increases the specific power until there is just no practical way to cool the computer and it overheats.

Superconducting logics like RSFQ have very VERY lower power requirements, which means that you can pack the processing elements very close. It's likely that they can even be stacked, along with memory. In theory, it would be possible the squeeze a petaflop supercomputer into the space inside an average sized cryogenic Dewar!

In practice, manufacturing complex RFSQ chips has been a bit tricky. Simple ones however are used relatively often, for example as an analog to digital converter in radio telescopes and some very high-end radar systems.

There have been suggestions to miniaturize this stuff using tiny cryocoolers based on stacked Peltier elements and good insulation, but I think the temperatures required are just too low.

At the end of the day, the NSA or their ilk funding research into this stuff might be a good thing! It sounds to me like this is a great technology that just needs a few billion dollars of research funding to become practical for commercial use.

Er, wait, what? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44488229)

'significant technical obstacles prevented exploration of superconducting computing,

Those "significant technical obstacles" haven't prevented people from creating super-cooled computers in their mom's garages. I have to wonder how the NSA missed that one. Especially since two minutes with Google will show you plenty and it's my understanding they've already built several "super computers" to download, store, and analyze the whole internet, all of our phone calls, and blah blah, yeah.

More likely, the obstacles were solved years ago, and now that everyone else has too, they don't have to keep the fact that they're building one classified, so they claim "significant technical obstacles" prevented them before now. -_-

Re:Er, wait, what? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44488427)

Scientology is a bona fide religion.

Re:Er, wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44488985)

I think the key phrase there is "superconducting computing", not "super-cooled". If your mom's garage has a custom semiconductor fab working on a non silicon process, you won't have space for the car.

Re:Er, wait, what? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44491109)

I think the key phrase there is "superconducting computing", not "super-cooled". If your mom's garage has a custom semiconductor fab working on a non silicon process, you won't have space for the car.

No. It just had some old pentium chips from the days when overclocking was possible because all chips were unlocked... and a big dewer of liquid nitrogen. Of course, you couldn't just pour it on the computer... you had to cool it using isopropyl alcohol and dry ice first... cool it in stages to prevent thermal fracturing. But once you got the whole unit submerged and powered it on, it was effectively supercooled... just like they were doing in the 80s with Cray supercomputers.

You don't need a fab lab to supercool something... you just need a friend at the college science lab to bring you a dewer of liquid nitrogen, and half a brain not to spill it on yourself.

to solve interesting problems (0)

Pharoah_69 (2866937) | about a year ago | (#44488319)

"...but the NSA is building a data center in Utah with a 65 MW power supply."

wow, that was close. If it were a 1.21 GW power supply, they could potentially go 'Back to the Future'.

Old, old, old (1)

chill (34294) | about a year ago | (#44488441)

The best I can find, since there IS NO TFA TO READ, is an IARPA solicitation from 2010/2011.

http://www.iarpa.gov/Programs/sso/solicitation_safe1007.html [iarpa.gov]

Slashdot editing has not only gone downhill, it has hit bottom and started to dig.

Re:Old, old, old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44488571)

Quick search for the first sentence of the first quote of the slashdot submission...
Google searching has not only gone downhill, it has hit bottom and started to dig.

I'm not saying that the link shouldn't have been in the article of course...
Links posted above. [slashdot.org]

Re:Old, old, old (1)

The Living Fractal (162153) | about a year ago | (#44490993)

That's OK. That's where the "dirt" is found.

Anyway, it has always been worth what you pay for it.

Such as (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year ago | (#44488495)

The Director of National Intelligence is soliciting help to develop a superconducting computer. The goal of the government's solicitation is 'to demonstrate a small-scale computer based on superconducting logic and cryogenic memory that is energy efficient, scalable, and able to solve interesting problems

'...such as rooting out the final vestigages of freedom and privacy.'

I'll just assume that (2)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about a year ago | (#44488501)

... anything with "NSA" in its name that comes from the US government consists of half-truths, lies and deliberate disinformation.

VPN & Windows (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44488641)

A little off topic I know, but I just made the link myself.

The detailed PRISM document gives an example of how to search for 'all connections that start a VPN in country X".

I've been examining the network traffic on Windows, and when you start a VPN it connects outside the VPN directly, and inside the VPN also to the same site. It sends a packet, that appear to unmask the VPN.

This could be that is how the NSA gets the VPN connect data, from a data feed from Microsoft.

Cryotron (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about a year ago | (#44489491)

Set the old time machine to the 1950s!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryotron [wikipedia.org]

Re:Cryotron (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#44489729)

But like a fault-current limiter, but with a separate control conductor to generate the field. Couldn't switch a high load with it though, for obvious reasons.

Re:Cryotron (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44489741)

Set the old time machine to the 1950s!

Sure, if you'll pay the electric bill for the 1.21GW (or just tell me what corner drug store I can buy plutonium from).

lol seriously ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44489527)

>> the NSA is building a data center in Utah with a 65 MW power supply.

Why don't you just go ahead and tell everyone the LAT/LON coordinates too while you're at it...

Re:lol seriously ? (2)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44489823)

>> the NSA is building a data center in Utah with a 65 MW power supply.

Why don't you just go ahead and tell everyone the LAT/LON coordinates too while you're at it...

40.43153 N, 111.933092 W (WGS84)

Re:lol seriously ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44490307)

Much appreciated...
awww shit, was gonna say something HILARIOUS but the gov't might take it seriously :(

build it in Texas. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44489571)

Then we can have a Super-colliding Superconducting Supercomputer, one better than anybody else.

Holy Fuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44489709)

They really have no shame whatsoever, do they?

Rapid single flux quantum computer? (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year ago | (#44490059)

TFA doesn't seem to mention it by name, but it sounds like this is an attempt to build a computer based on rapid single flux quantum principles.

Basically, you replace transistors with things called "Josephson junctions", and use short (picosecond-range) bursts of electricity instead of continuous DC current. Josephson junctions are a quantum phenomenon that happens in superconductors, hence the Q in RSFQ, but the computation itself is traditional logic, not quantum weirdness. That's why it needs to be cryogenic - we don't have room-temperature superconductors.

The main benefit is that Josephson junctions are extremely fast - a 2005 study by the NSA (apparently not classified [nitrd.gov] ) planned an initial test computer at 50GHz, boosting to 250GHz by 2010. This seems to be referenced obliquely in TFA, which mentions 100GHz clockspeeds. They're also very power-efficient - the bursts of electricity can be absolutely tiny, since it's working in a superconductor.

The 2005 paper seemed to go nowhere - there are a lot of issues to sort out, from "how do we make RAM for this thing?" to "how do we make power cables that run at these temperatures?". But I've suspected that they secretly continued development, and had functional RSFQ computers, since it's actually a pretty neat idea and the price tag in the paper was pretty low ($46M).

Important part (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about a year ago | (#44491921)

Does it have a place where I can keep beer cold? You know, if there isn't a spot, they'll just stuck it on top of the CPU. What kind of results would you get then?

Reminds me of (1)

joh (27088) | about a year ago | (#44492523)

the Minds of Iain M. Banks which partly run in hyperspace to get around this pesky speed of light limit when processing things.

OK, that's all.

Super Conducting? (1)

sackofdonuts (2717491) | about a year ago | (#44492627)

That is so 1990's.

This thread (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44493093)

What fun: two dimwits insulting each other. Or is it the same troll under two names?

Thanks for the entertainment.

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